William Leech started his working life as an apprentice, based at Swan Hunter Shipyards in 1918. Having completed his apprenticeship unfortunately lost his job during the 1920’s depression. He then joined his father in his local Scotswood and Benwell window cleaning business rising to become President of the West End Window Cleaners Federation by 1929.
His first steps in house building started in 1930 leading to large scale building operations in 1932, at the height of the depression – his ambition from the start had been to provide affordable housing for those sections of society who had never before been able to contemplate home ownership.
In 1960 William Leech created two charitable trusts, William Leech Investments and William Leech Foundation, principally to benefit five religious charities. These charitable trusts curren
tly have combined assets of over £70million creatin
g a constant income for the five charitable beneficiaries.
In 1972 William Leech created a separate charity, the William Leech Property Trust, and donated to it some 300 tenanted properties he had personally acquired and managed over the years. This Trust had separate and distinct objects, namely the support of charitable works through registered charities working in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham. In 1988 the Trust became known as The William Leech Charity.
Most of the properties of the Trust have been sold over the years and the money invested in an investment portfolio of stocks and shares which is actively managed by the trustees. In 2007 combined assets totaled some £14.5million creating a distributable income of some £400,000 for North East Charities.
William Leech died in 1990 at the age of 90 and was posthumously awarded a Knighthood in the New Years Honours List for his charitable works.